Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tim Ho Wan: A Safe Place for Food Nerds

Skipping Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong is one of my biggest regrets in life along with overfeeding my childhood cat to the point of diabetes (#YOLO, life's too short, RIP Curtis) and being too lazy to become a marine biologist. When I was there on my way to Australia in April 2013, I should have bit the bullet and made Charlie get out of bed early enough to line up outside the Mongkok location hours before it opened so that I could experience the world's least-expensive Michelin-starred restaurant for myself, but I didn't. I gave into jet-lag and a lazy boyfriend. I clearly didn't want it enough, so I'm not sure how or why I got so lucky as to have one more chance to eat the famous dim sum when I got to Singapore almost a year later. Tim Ho Wan now has four Singapore locations. Obv wasn't going to pass it up again, line or no line.
There was a line when we turned up around lunch time after getting lost in the intestine-like shopping mall depths of Orchard Road – no one does malls better than Asians – but said line moved quickly and just gave us time to get on the same page and make concrete commitments about what we'd order, aka get Charlie used to not having a choice. It also gave me time to take lots of pics and that's another great thing about Asia. Taking photos in restaurants is, like, welcomed there. Everyone else is doing it too. No snooty waiters or neighbors judging me for being a blogger. Everyone eating is a blogger; everyone eating knows Tim Ho Wan is famous, food-nerd or not. 
This unassuming little baked barbecue pork bun is the dish that's responsible for most of Tim Ho Wan's fame. The three people at the table next to us got an order of three buns, EACH, and after eating two of our three myself, I can whole-heartedly endorse their gluttony. The bun crackles with your first bite – the sweet, crunchy top yields to a steaming, stewy, molten barbecue pork filling that screams with flavor. They're pretty convincing, these little guys. 
Our pan-fried carrot cake had pieces of Chinese sausage in it, and that makes me smile. Let's face it, Chinese sausage is the best. I was taken aback when I was first confronted by it in link form in the streets of HK, but I've certainly been converted since. This carrot cake was soft and smooth, sealed to a perfect golden crisp on either surface. A delight. 
I was excited about the wasabi salad prawn dumplings when I saw their photo on the menu, but they were a bit disappointing in reality. I didn't pick up enough of that nosey heat from the drizzle of wasabi on top, and the whole-prawn filling was tender but lackluster – where's the salad? Crispy, though. And definitely good-looking. 
Pork dumplings with shrimp came topped by a cute little gogi berry (?) and in shumai-style. They were tenderly steamed and sufficiently shrimpy. A perfect (if not top-of-the-mouth-searing) little bite. 
Finally, the gorgeous crystal dumplings with truffle sauce. These translucent little packages held diced carrot, mushroom and celery all tossed with just the tiniest hint of truffle. More truffle, please! (Theme of life.) These were kind of funny because shoving one in all at once yielded mouth awkwardness, while taking it in two bites meant total destruction (veggie cubes EVERYWHERE aside from inside the remaining dumpling wrapper). 

On the whole, dim sum at Tim Ho Wan was a satisfying experience. The pork buns totally live up to their fame, and everything else sufficiently accompanies them. Would I wait two hours in HK to get bomb pork buns and some other decent dim sum on the side? Maybe not considering the multitudes of bomb food in HK that I don't have to wait for. But am I glad I got the chance to meet this dim sum royalty? Absolutely. 


Tim Ho Wan: #01-29A Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, Sinagpore

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